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5 Exercises for Arthritis Pain

5 Exercises for Arthritis Pain

When you suffer from arthritis pain, moving can sometimes be difficult and painful. The cruel irony of arthritis is that exercise is beneficial to reducing pain from arthritis.

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise has a long list of benefits for sufferers of arthritis pain. Exercise has been shown to:

  • Strengthen muscles around the joints
  • Increase energy
  • Improved or maintain strength of bones
  • Relieve insomnia and/or improve sleep
  • Aid in weight management
  • Improve balance
  • Boost overall quality of life

Clearly, you can benefit from regular exercise regardless of whether you suffer from arthritis pain. Specifically for arthritis sufferers, though, exercise can be challenging. The type of exercise needs to be low impact with a low risk of injury.

That is where these five styles of exercise can come in handy. With a little bit of guidance and patience, you can be reaping the benefits of exercise despite the challenges that arthritis presents.

5 Safe and Beneficial Exercise to Manage Arthritis Pain

Walking. Walking is one of the best exercises that you can do. It’s accessible for nearly all levels of fitness. It is free. And it can be done either outdoors in nature, around the neighborhood, or inside on a track or treadmill.

For arthritis sufferers, walking is one of the few full-body exercises that has minimal impact. Unlike running or aerobics, walking is gentle on the joints. It can be modified in intensity for varying fitness levels or physical limitations.

Walking also provides an opportunity for socializing. You can walk alone or with a pet or a friend/loved one. The varying routes and varying intensities can also help you ward off boredom in your fitness routine.

Yoga. Yoga makes a ton of wellness exercises lists, for good reason. It is a gentle exercise that helps you build strengthen, improve flexibility, boost balance, and relax the mind.

According to the American Academy of Rheumatology, exercise is a critical component of managing osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Professionals from John Hopkins recommend yoga as one of the best ways for arthritis sufferers to get exercise. It has been linked to decreased pain in a wide range of studies. In one such study, participants underwent an 8-week yoga program and all reported positive results and reduced pain. Even more impressive, when the study followed up with participants 9 months later they still reported decreased pain and an overall better quality of life. Compared to sedentary counterparts, arthritis sufferers who incorporated regular exercise into their lives experienced less joint pain overall.

Body weight strength training. Strength training is often equated with steamy weight rooms and large metal plates. In reality though, your own body weight can provide enough resistance to strengthen muscles and improve bone and joint health. For arthritis sufferers, doing some simple body weight exercises are a great way to get moving without a smaller risk of overuse or injury.

Great examples of body weight exercises that can strengthen the muscles around your joints include:

If you desire, after gaining strength from body weight exercises you can safely move to lifting weights as well. There is never any need to, but it can be safely done with mindfulness and patience.

Swimming. In the water, the pressure on your joints is greatly reduced. The human body tends to float, or at least be supported, by the water. Swimming, or any kind of water aerobics, is a great place to start for a low impact workout.

Not only does the water allow for you to relieve some of the pressure of gravity on your joints, the water also serves as a fantastic resistance. Walking in water, for example, will provide a higher intensity cardio and strength workout than just walking in your neighborhood. If you are looking to increase workout intensity, but if you are concerned your joints will not be able to handle higher impact exercises -- water sports can be a fantastic alternative. The Arthritis Foundation and other organizations even offer water-based exercise classes tailored specifically to people living with arthritis. 

There is also some research to suggest that just being in the water is helpful to managing arthritis pain. Warm water will relax muscles and can provide relief to aching joints. Cool or cold water can work as an ice pack for your entire body, numbing and reducing the pain.

Dance. Just because you have arthritis doesn’t mean your exercise has to be boring. Many classes, like Zumba, tailor their exercises to be low impact for all fitness levels. To maintain a steady exercise routine, finding something you enjoy can be key to building healthy habits.

Arthritis sufferers are likely not going to be jumping in ballet shoes or dropping it low in a hip-hop class. But there’s no reason you can’t wiggle in a salsa class or twirl in a ballroom class with your partner.

Any reason to get moving will be beneficial for arthritis sufferers as long as considerations are taken for safety. Most dances have a lot of fluid movements that are gentle on joints while keeping the blood pumping and the heart rate up.

Bonus benefit: learning choreography has been shown to be a brain boost as well by forming new neural pathways and improving neuroplasticity. A new dance could mean a healthier body and a sharper mind. Several studies have shown a relationship between dancing and a reduced risk of dementia.  One study showed a 76% risk reduction of dementia in participants who danced.